Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;
Verse 1. - Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Jesus (Ξριστὸν before Ἰησοῦν is ill supported, and to be rejected from the text). Reference to what has gone before is perceptible throughout this verse. The persons addressed are "holy," as being among the "sanctified" (Hebrews 2:11); "brethren," as being, with the writer, in this relation to Christ (Hebrews 2:11, 12, 13, 17); their calling is a heavenly one, being from heaven (Hebrews 1:1) and to heaven (Hebrews 2:10). Jesus is their" Apostle," as having been sent into the world, as above set forth, from God; their "High Priest," as implied, though not distinctly expressed, at the end of Hebrews 2, which led up to the idea. "Jesus" is added at the end in apposition, so as to fix attention on him, as the bearer of these titles, who was known by that name in the flesh. On the title "Apostle," we may observe that, though it is nowhere else in the New Testament applied to Christ, yet its idea with respect to him is frequent both in this Epistle and elsewhere (cf. Luke 4:43; Luke 9:48; Luke 10:16; John 17:3, 18, etc.). The word ὁμολογία (translated "confession;" in the A.V., "profession") is generally used for the Christian's avowal of his faith before men (cf. Hebrews 4:14; Hebrews 10:23; 2 Corinthians 9:13; 1 Timothy 6:12). The genitive here depends on both the preceding substantives, its force probably being that Jesus, as Apostle and High Priest, is the object of our confession of faith. On Jesus, then, being such, the readers are called to fix earnestly their mental gaze, and in doing so take further note of his superiority to Moses, which is the subject of what follows.
Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house.
Verse 2. - Who was faithful (or, as being faithful) to him that appointed (literally, made) him, as also Moses was in all his house. The reference is to what was said of Moses (Numbers 12:7), "My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house," and serves aptly to introduce the intended comparison of Christ with him. In respect of faithfulness to him who constituted him in his office, Christ resembles Moses; in respect to his office itself, it is to be shown that he is far above him. Observe
(1) that "his house" means God's house, as' is plain from the text cited, i.e. the house of him who appointed him;
(2) that "in all his house" has reference to Moses only, not to Christ; for the main point of what follows is that Christ is over God's house, not in it, as Moses was. As to the verb ποιήσαντα (translated in A.V. "appointed "), it may have been suggested by 1 Samuel 12:6, where the LXX. reads Κύριος ὁ ποίησας τὸν Μωυσῆν καὶ τὸν Ἀαρὼν, the Hebrew verb being עַשׂה, which seems to mean in this case "constitute," not "create" (so Gesenius). The preceding words, ἀπόστολον καὶ ἀρχιερέα, though it is not necessary to supply them as understood, may be taken here to rule the meaning of ποιήσαντι (cf. for a similar use of the verb without a second accusative following, Mark 3:14, καὶ ἐποίησε δώδεκα. Thus the Arian inference from the word, that Christ is represented as a creature, is groundless. Nor need reference be supposed to his human birth or conception, the temporalis generatio of the man Jesus (Athanasius, Ambrose, and other Fathers). Certainly not to his eternal generation (as Bleek and Lunemann); such reference is foreign to the idea of the passage; nor could the word ποιεῖν with any propriety be so used.
For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house.
Verse 3. - For of more glory than Moses hath this man (so A.V., for οὕτος, supplying "man," though it is to be observed that the humanity of the person spoken of is not expressed in the original) been counted worthy (ἠξίωται: cf. Luke 7:7; 1 Timothy 5:17; Hebrews 10:24; 2 Thessalonians 1:11), by so much as more honor than the house hath he that built (or, established) it. Here the account of Christ's superiority to Moses begins. On the several expressions used we remark:
(1) The initiatory γὰρ connects the sentence logically with κατανοήσατε in ver. 1, and thus retains its usual sense of "for."
(2) The form of comparison in the Greek, πλείονος παρὰ, is the same as in Hebrews 1:4, where the account of Christ's superiority to angels began (on which see supra).
(3) The "glory" (δόξα) here assigned to Christ is the" glory and honor" spoken of above as attained by him in consequence of his human obedience (cf. Hebrews 2:9, "because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor"). This, rather than "the glory he had with the Father before the world was" (John 17:5), is suggested by the word ἠξίωται, as well as by the drift of the preceding chapters. We may suppose also a reference, in contrast, to the transitory "glory" on the countenance of Moses (ἡ καταργουμένη), which is contrasted (2 Corinthians 3.) with the ὑπερβαλλούση δόξα in Christ. We observe, further, that in the latter part of the verse τιμή is substituted for δόξα, as more suitable to the mundane comparison of a house and its builder.
(4) Κατασκευάζειν may include the idea of fitting up and furnishing a house as well as building it. But what is the drift of the intended argument? It is usual, with the Fathers generally, to suppose that Christ (οὕτος) is intended to be denoted as the Builder or Establisher of the house in which Hoses was a servant, and that the argument is that he, as such, is necessarily greater than the servant, who was but a part of the house, or household, thus established. Οϊκος, it is to be observed, may include in its meaning the familia, as well as the house itself, as κατασκευάζειν may include the idea of constituting the whole establishment (cf. infra, "whose house we are"). Among moderns, Hofmann and Delitzsch deny this identification of ὁ κατασκευάσας with οὕτος: against which there are the following reasons:
(1) The SON has not been represented so far in the Epistle as the originator of the economy of redemption. Notwithstanding distinct intimations of his eternal proexistent Deity (as in Hebrews 1:1, 2, 10), it has been as the Messiah, the Apostle and High Priest, manifested in time, and passing through humanity to glory, that he has been regarded in the preceding argument. Nor is there any proof here adduced of his being the Builder of the "house," so as to justify the conclusion on this ground of his glory being greater than that of Moses.
(2) The word ἠξίωται ("has been counted worthy of") suggests (as has been already remarked) refer once to the glory won by him, "on account of the suffering of death," rather than to his pristine glory as the Divine Builder.
(3) Elsewhere in the New Testament, when the Church is referred to under the figure of a house, it is spoken of as God's building (cf. Hebrews 10:21; 1 Timothy 3:15; 1 Corinthians 3:9, 16; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:22; 1 Peter 4:17; 1 Peter 2:5). It is never spoken of as Christ's.
(4) The wording of ver. 3 does not necessitate the identification of ὁ κατασκευάσας with οὕτος. Καθ ὅσον means "so far as;" it implies only that the glory of Christ is greater than that of Moses, in proportion as the honor of the builder is greater than that of the house.
(5) The identification increases the difficulty of understanding the relevance to the argument of ver. 4, of which more will be said presently. Taking, then, ὁ κατασκευάσας to denote God the Father, we may state the argument thus: God is the Builder, or Founder, of his own house. Christ has been already shown to be his SON, associated with him in dignity and power, and, as such, Lord over his Father's house. Moses, on the other hand, as appears from Numbers 12:7, was but a servant in God's house. As, then, the Founder is to the house, so is the Son and Lord to a servant in it; the Son partaking of the glory of the Founder; the servant only of that of the house in which he serves. According to this view of the argument, the premises have been established, and the conclusion follows; the relation of Christ to the Builder of the house has been set forth in the preceding chapter, and may be now assumed; that of Moses is sufficiently shown by the quotation from the Pentateuch. Thus also vers. 5 and 6 are found to carry out naturally the idea here introduced, instead of unexpectedly starting a different one.
For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God.
Verse 4. - For every house is builded (or, established) by some one; but he that built (or, established) all things is God. Of the second clause of this verse "God" is rightly taken by modern commentators as the subject, not the predicate, though the Fathers generally take it otherwise. Thus Theodoret, regarding as a ὁ πάντα κατασκευάσας designation of Christ, views this clause as an assertion of his Deity on the ground of his being the Founder of all things. But this view introduces an idea out of keeping with the argument, and especially with the preceding expression, "faithful to him who appointed him," in which Christ, in his office as the Christ, is distinguished from the Creator of all who appointed him to that office. The verse seems to be interposed in elucidation of the preceding ὁ κατασκευάσας αὕτον, to make it clear that the Founder of the house spoken of is God himself, and thus to give full effect to the proportionate glory of Christ in comparison with that of Moses. Thus: the glory of Christ is greater than that of Moses by so much as the honor of the founder of a house is greater than that of the house; - of the founder, we say; for every house has some founder: but God is the original Founder of all things, and therefore of necessity the Founder of this house of his own in which Moses was a servant. The verse, thus interpreted, seems (as intimated there) to fall in with the train of thought mere naturally than it can be shown to do if Christ is 'regarded as the Builder. Possibly "all things" may be purposely used to denote the house itself over which Christ, as Son, is Lord. For, though the expression seems too wide for the limited house in which Moses was a servant, it is net so for the expanded and consummated house over which Christ in glory reigns; cf. Hebrews 1:2, "Whom he appointed Heir of all things;" and Hebrews 2:8, "Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet;" the last being said in especial connection with the "glory and honor" wherewith Christ "has been counted worthy" to be crowned. It is not necessary to confine the meaning of "God's house" to the Mosaic dispensation, or to assign to it (as some have done) two separate meanings in the cases of Moses and of Christ. It may be regarded as a comprehensive term, including in its general meaning the Law, the gospel, and the final consummation the whole dispensation of redemption, beginning with the Law, and completed at the second advent. Moses held office in its early stage, and there only as a servant; in its ultimate development it comprises "all things," and over "all things," thus comprised, Christ, as SON, has been shown to be by inheritance absolute Lord.
And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after;
Verses 5, 6. - And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were afterwards to be spoken; but Christ, as Son over his house. We have already anticipated the explanation of this passage, which, according to the view taken above, is a setting forth of the distinction between Christ and Moses intended from the first; that of one being "Son over," the other but "servant in," the house of God. The rendering of the A.V., "his own house," in ver. 6, where Christ is spoken of, is not justifiable. It is true that we have no means of knowing whether αὐτοῦ or αὑτοῦ was intended, and that even αὐτοῦ might, according to the usage of Hellenistic Greek, refer to Christ; but if the writer had so intended it, he might easily have avoided ambiguity by writing ἑαυτοῦ, etc. He has not done so; and, therefore, it is most natural to take "his house" in the same sense throughout the passage; viz. as" God's house," referred to in Numbers 12:7, whence the expression is taken. We observe further that "the things that were afterwards to be spoken (τῶν λαληθησομένων)" must be taken as denoting the future "speaking" of God to man "in his SON" (cf. Hebrews 1:1); not, as some interpret, the speaking through Moses himself in the Law. Moses was inferior to Christ, not only in respect to his personal position as a servant, but also in respect to his work as such; which was only to testify beforehand, typically and prophetically, to a fuller revelation to come. Whose house we are. Here begins the transition to the warning intended when the "holy brethren" were first called on to "consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession," who has now been seen to be so much greater than Moses. We Christians constitute this completed "house of God," over which Christ reigns as Son; if only warned by the example of the Israelites under Moses, we forfeit not our higher calling. This condition is expressed by If we hold fast the confidence (or, our confidence) and the rejoicing (rather, boast) of the (i.e. our) hope firm unto the end. Παῥῤησιά (often rendered "boldness;" see below, Hebrews 4:16; Hebrews 10:19, 35) is the confidence felt by assured believers; καύχημα is the boast thereupon ensuing. This word (as also καυχᾶσθαι) is often used by St. Paul (cf. Romans 4:2; Romans 5:2; 1 Corinthians 5:6: 9:15; 2 Corinthians 1:14; 2 Corinthians 5:12; 2 Corinthians 9:3; Galatians 6:4; Philippians 1:26; Philippians 2:16). Its proper meaning is not (as is by many sup- posed) the materies gloriandi, but the uttered boast itself (see note on 1 Corinthians 5:6, in the 'Speaker's Commentary'). The con- eluding words, μέχρι τέλους βεβαίαν, are omitted in the Codex Vatican, and, notwithstanding the preponderance of authority in their favor, may have been interpolated (as is supposed by Mill, Tischendorf, Alford, and Delitzsch) from ver. 14, especially as the reading is not βεβαίον, so as to agree with the substantive immediately preceding, but βεβαίαν, as in ver. 14.
But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.
Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice,
Verses 7-11. - Wherefore, as the Holy Ghost saith, Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. The warning, thus led up to, is now introduced by a long quotation from Psalm 95, which is cited at length, because the writer is about to dwell on its whole significance in the remainder of this and also in the succeeding chapter. The warning is connected by διὸ with the conclusion of ver. 6. Since our continuing to be God's house is on the condition of our steadfastness, therefore beware of failing, as the Israelites referred to by the psalmist did. With regard to the construction of the passage, there is some difficulty in discovering the apodosis to the initiatory καθὼς ("as saith the Holy Ghost"). It seems best to suppose one understood, being suggested by "harden not your hearts," which occurs m the midst of the quotation. Sentences thus grammatically incomplete are in the style of St. Paul. Otherwise the apodosis must be found in βλέπετε (ver. 12), the long intervening passage being parenthetical. It is, after all, only a question of grammatical construction; in any case the general meaning is clear. As to the successive clauses of the quotation from Psalm 95. (vers. 7-11), it is to be observed that
(1) "If ye will hear his voice" may probably mean in the Hebrew, "Oh that ye would hear his voice!" But the Greek of the LXX., cited in the Epistle, is capable of the same meaning. Here, again, the meaning of the particular phrase does not affect the drift of the passage.
(2) "Harden not your hearts" expresses the abjuration which ensues from resistance of grace. Elsewhere such judicial hardening is attributed to God; as when he is said to have hardened Pharaoh's heart (cf. Isaiah 6:9, etc.; Matthew 13:13). The two modes of expression involve no difference of doctrine. It is God's doing as being judicial; man's as being due to his own perversity. As in the provocation, in the day of the temptation in the wilderness. Here κατὰ τὴν ἡμέραν, which is from the LXX., may mean "at the time of" (cf. Acts 16:25, κατὰ τὸ μεσονύκτιον), or "according to," i.e. "after the manner of." The former agrees best with the Hebrew psalm, which has "As at Meribah, as on the day of Massah in the wilderness," referring to the two places called by these names from what occurred there, when the people murmured for want of water. The first occurrence was at Rephidim, in the wilderness of Sin, at the commencement of the wandering (Exodus 17:1-8); the second was in the wilderness of Zin, near Kadesh, towards the end of the forty years (Numbers 20:1-14). Both names are assigned to the former place in Exodus 17:7; but elsewhere they are distinguished (see Deuteronomy 33:8). In the text, following the LXX., equivalents of the Hebrew names are given, Massah being rendered literally by πειρασμός: Meribah (equivalent to "strife ") by the unusual word παραπικρασμός, which occurs only here and in the psalm, though the verb παραπικραίνω is common in the LXX. The root of the word being πικρὸς ("bitter"), it may possibly have been suggested by the occurrence at Marah (equivalent to "bitterness"), where there was also a murmuring about water (Exodus 15:23), πικρία being the LXX. equivalent of Marah.
(3) When (οῦ in the sense of ὅπου, as is common in the LXX. and New Testament) your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. In place of the reading of the Textus Receptus, ἐδοκιμασάν με ("proved me"), which agrees with the LXX., the authority of manuscripts is in favor of ἐν δοκιμασίᾳ. This again, like the ether variations of reading, is of no importance with regard to the meaning. But further, in the original Hebrew, and apparently in the LXX., "forty years" is connected with the clause that follows: "forty years long was I grieved," etc.; whereas, in the text, the interposition of διὸ at the beginning of ver. 10, necessitates its connection with "saw my works." It is possible that the writer of the Epistle intended a reference to the corresponding forty years from the manifestation of Christ to the destruction of Jerusalem, which were drawing to their close at the time of writing, and during which the Israelites of his day were trying God by their rejection of the gospel, or, in the case of some of the believers addressed, by their wavering allegiance to it. The supposition that this idea was in the writer's mind is supported by the fact that Jewish writers refer to the psalm as assigning forty years for the days of the Messiah (see reference in Bleek, Delitzsch, Alford, etc.). That the writer had an intention in his variation from the original is the more likely from his following it correctly afterwards in ver. 17.
(4) As I sware in my wrath, If they shall enter into my rest. The reference here is to Numbers 14:21, etc., beginning with the Divine oath, "As truly as I live," which is again repeated in ver. 28. The occasion was not the murmuring either at Massah or at Meribah, but the general rebellion of the whole congregation after the return of the spies, betokening a universal spirit of ἀπιστία (cf. ver. 19). "If they shall enter (εἰ εἰσελεύσονται) "is an elliptical form of oath, expressing strong negation.
Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years.
Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.
So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.)
Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
Verse 12. - Take heed (literally, see), brethren, lest haply there should be (literally, shall be) in any one of you an evil heart of unbelief, in falling away from the living God. Here begins definitely the hortatory application of the warning of the ninety-fifth psalm. Its drift, to the end of the chapter, is: You, being called under the SON to a far higher position than your fathers under Moses were, but the retention of your position being, as theirs was, conditional on your faithfulness, see that you do not forfeit it, as some of you may be in danger of doing. That you may, if you are not careful, is shown by the very warning of the psalm, and by the example of your fathers, referred to in the psalm, all of whom, though called, failed of attainment through unbelief. It is implied all along that the "today" of the psalm includes the present day of grace, and points to a truer rest than that of Canaan, still offered to the faithful. But the full bringing out of this thought is reserved for the next chapter. On the language of ver. 12 we observe:
(1) The same form of warning, βλέπετε μὴ, occurs infra Hebrews 12:25, but then, suitably to the context, followed by a subjunctive. Here the future indicative which follows, μήποτε ἔσται, denotes a fact in the future, distinctly apprehended as possible (cf. Colossians 2:8). It had not ensued as yet, nor does the writer anticipate the probability of its being the case with all his readers; but in the state of feeling with regard to the gospel among the Hebrew Christians which the whole Epistle was intended to counteract, he sees ground for fearing it in the case of some. Their present wavering might result in apostasy.
(2) It is not necessary to analyze the expression," an evil heart of unbelief," so as to settle whether the evil heart is regarded as the result of unbelief, or unbelief of the evil heart; the main point to be observed is that unbelief is connected with moral culpability, as is implied further in ver. 13. The unbelief so condemned in Holy Scripture is not mere intellectual incapacity; it is condemned only so far as man is responsible for it on account of his own willful perversity or carelessness.
(3) The outcome of such "evil heart of unbelief," if allowed to become fixed and permanent, will be apostasy (ἀπόστηναι: cf. Luke 8:13; 1 Timothy 4:1) from "the living God," from him who is Eternal Life and the Source of all life and salvation. The thought of the momentous consequence of the falling away of Christians after light enjoyed is prominent in the Epistle (see especially Hebrews 6:4, etc.; Hebrews 10:26, etc.). The expression," the living God," further directs attention to the revelation of God in the Old Testament, in which he is continually so designated, and to the thought that it is the same God who has revealed himself finally in the SON. Addressing Hebrew Christians, the writer may mean to say," In apostatizing from Christ you would be cutting yourselves off from the God of your whole ancestral faith." There may be an intended allusion, too, to the oath, already referred to, of Numbers 14:21, 28, the form of which in the original is," As I live" (ζῶ ἐγὼ λέγει Κύριος, LXX.).
But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
Verse 13. - But exhort one another (literally, yourselves, as in Colossians 3:16, the idea being that of the responsibility of the believers themselves in keeping their own faith alive; the Church must keep itself from apostasy by the mutual admonitions of its members), day by day, so long as it is called Today (i.e. while the "Today," τὸ σήμερον, of the psalm is still called so, καλεῖται: while you are still living day by day within the limit of its meaning); lest any one of you be hardened (still referring to the warning of the psalm) by the deceitfulness of sin. Here again, as in ver. 12, the possible result of obdurate unbelief is distinctly traced to moral culpability. Sin is a deceiver (cf. Romans 7:11; Ephesians 4:22); it distorts the spiritual vision, causes us to take false views of things, and to lose our clear view of truth; and continued dalliance with sin may hare its result in final obduracy, which, as above remarked, is our own doing as it comes of our sin, God's doing as it comes of his judgment. The sin contemplated in the case of the Hebrew Christians as not unlikely to have its result in obduracy was, not only imperfect appreciation of the true character of the gospel revelation, and consequent remissness in mutual admonition and attendance at Christian worship (Hebrews 10:25), but also, as a further consequence of such remissness, failure in the moral purity of life, the active charity, the disentanglement from the world, and the endurance of persecution, required of Christians. This appears from the earnest exhortations that follow afterwards against all such shortcomings (see especially Hebrews 10:19-26, 32-39; Hebrews 12:1-18; Hebrews 13:1-20). It was especially by conscientious perseverance in the religious life that they might hope to keep their religious faith steadfast and unclouded to the end; in accordance with Christ's own saying, "If any man will do (θέλη ποιεῖν) his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God."
For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;
Verse 14. - For we are become partakers (or, patterers) of Christ, if only we hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm unto the end. This is a repetition in another form of the assertion of our position as Christians, with the appended condition, in ver. 6. It is a question whether μέτοχοι Ξριστοῦ means that we partake of Christ as being in communion with him, or that we are partakers with him of the glory he has won for us (cf. συγκληρονόμοι Ξριστοῦ, Romans 8:17). The first is undoubtedly the ordinary sense of μέτοχος with a genitive in classical Greek, and generally in the New Testament (cf. e.g. infra, Hebrews 6:4, Μετόχους Πνεύματος ἁγίου), and is on this ground maintained by Bleek, Alford, and others; but in the LXX. μέτοχος, followed by a genitive, is as undoubtedly used for" partner" or "companion;" cf. Psalm 119:63, Μέτοχος ἐγὼ εἰμι πάντων τῶν φοβουμένων σε: Hosea 4:17, Μέτοχος εἰδώλων: and especially Psalm 45:7, Μέτοχους σου, which has been already cited (Hebrews 1:9), and justifies, as it may prove suggested, the expression in this sense here. Cf. also in the New Testament, Luke 5:7, where μετόχος, though without an expressed genitive following, occurs in the sense of "partner." Further, the second sense accords better than the first with the view of our relation to Christ so far set forth in the Epistle.
(2) On the word ὑπόστασις (translated "confidence"), see what was said under Hebrews 1:3. All the ancient interpreters understood it here in the same general sense as in the former passage - that of substance or subsistence, either as denoting our subsistence as members of Christ, or our faith regarded as the substance of our Christian life, or with other modifications of the general meaning. Modern commentators agree in understanding merely the sense in which the word is found to be commonly used by the Alexandrian writers - that of confidence, derived from the physical conception of a firm foundation. It thus corresponds with the παῥῤησίαν of ver. 6.
(3) "The beginning" (τὴν ἀρχὴν) of this confidence refers to the earlier stage of the experiences of the Hebrew Christians, before their faith had shown any signs of wavering. There is no sufficient ground for Ebrard's inference from this expression, that the Epistle was not addressed to the Hebrew Church at large, which was the oldest of all Churches, but to "a circle of catechumens and neophytes." The phrase does not imply that the "beginning" was recent. All it need mean is, "Go on as you began." Further, we find, in Hebrews 5:12, a distinct intimation that the Church addressed is one of old standing.
(4) "Unto the end "may have an individual reference to the end of life, or (the Church being addressed as a community expecting the second advent) a general one to the close of the period of grace during which "it is called Today."
While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.
Verse 15. - While it is said, Today, etc. Commentators have found unnecessary difficulty in determining the connection of ἐν τῷ λέγεσθαι. Many, taking the words as the beginning of a new sentence, have been at pains to discover the apodosis to them. Cbrysostom, Grotius, Rosenmuller, and others find it in φοβηθῶμεν οϋν, Hebrews 4:1; notwithstanding the οϋν, which seems evidently to introduce a new sentence, and the long parenthesis which, on this supposition, intervenes. Others find it in μὴ σκληρύνητε ("harden not your hearts"), in the middle of the citation of ver. 16, as if the writer of the Epistle adopted these words as his own. Delitzsch finds it in ver. 16, taken as an interrogation (τίνες, not τινὲς: see below); thus: "When it is said, Today... harden not your hearts as in the provocation,... who did provoke? Nay, did not all?" The γὰρ after τίνες he accounts for by its idiomatic use found in such passages as Acts 8:31; Acts 19:35, conveying the sense of the English, "Why, who did provoke?" But this use of γὰρ, obvious in the texts adduced as parallel, would be forced here; the structure of the sentence does not easily lend itself to it. Still, this is the view taken by Tholuck, Bleek, De Wette, Lunemann, and others, as well as Delitzsch. But, notwithstanding such weighty support, difficulties are surely best avoided by taking ἐν τῷ λέγεσθαι, not as commencing a new sentence, but in connection with ver. 14 preceding, as it seems most natural to take it in the absence of any connecting particle to mark a new proposition. In this case the translation of the A.V. gives a fully satisfactory sense: "If we hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm unto the end, while it is still being said, To-day," etc.; i.e. (as in ver. 13) "so long as it is called Today." Ebrard, Alford, and others, taking the same view of the connection of the words, prefer the translation, "In that it is said." But the other seems more in accordance with the thought pervading the passage.
For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses.
Verses 16-19. - For who, when they heard, provoked? Nay, did not all those who came out of Egypt by Moses. That both these clauses are interrogative, and not as taken in the A.V., is now the prevalent view. The reasons for thus understanding them are
(1) the analogy of the two following verses, both of which are interrogative, and in the first of which a question is similarly answered by putting another; and
(2) the sense required. If the clauses were assertions, they could only be meant to express that the provocation was not universal, inasmuch as Joshua and Caleb (and it might be some few others) remained faithful. But to say this is unnecessary and irrelevant to the argument, the drift of which is to warn by "the example of unbelief;" and could τινὲς ("some") possibly be used to denote the whole congregation with the exception of so few? It is to be observed, too, that the ἀλλ οὐ at the beginning of the second clause is a proper Greek expression (equivalent to "nay") in the case of one question being answered by another (cf. Luke 17:7, 8). This verse, then (γὰρ retaining its usual sense of "for"), begins a proof, put in the form of a series of questions, of the preceding implied proposition, viz. that the retention of Christian privilege is dependent on perseverance, and that the privilege may be forfeited. In order to show this fully, the history of Numbers 14, referred to in the warning of the psalm, is examined in connection with the successive expressions of the warning; and it thus appears that all who came out of Egypt by Moses (the small exception of the faithful spies being disregarded) provoked God, and so forfeited their privilege, and that the cause of their failure was sin, disobedience, and, at the root of all, unbelief. The conclusion is obvious that, as their example is held out in the psalm as a warning to us, we may, all or any of us, similarly forfeit our higher calling. That the psalm is a warning to us, the rest it points to being the rest won for us by Christ, is more fully shown in the following chapter. We observe how the leading words in Psalm 95. are taken in succession in the three successive verses - παραπικρασμός in ver. 16, προσώχθισα in ver. 17, ὤμοσα in ver. 18 - and how answers to the three questions suggested by these words are found in Numbers 14. - to the first, in vers. 2, 10, etc., "all the children of Israel," "all the congregation;" to the second, in vers. 29-34, with citation of the words used; to the third, in vers. 21-24. It is to be observed, further, that it is not simply ἀπιστία, but its exhibition in actual sin and disobedience (τοῖς ἀμαρτήσασι τοῖς ἀπειθήσασι), that is spoken of as calling forth the Divine wrath and the Divine oath. The second of the above words implies more titan "believed not" (as in the A.V.); ἀπειθεῖν differs from ἀπιστεῖν in implying disobedience or contumacy. And this view of the case of the Israelites agrees entirely with the historical record, where an actual rebellion is spoken of a refusal to go on with the work they had been called to. It suits also the application to the case of the Hebrew Christians, among whom (as has been said) it was not only wavering of faith, but, as its consequence, remissness in moral duty and in the facing of trial, of which the writer of the Epistle had perceived symptoms, and on the ground of which he warns them to take heed lest growing indifference should be hardened into apostasy. But in both instances, as faith is the root of all virtue, so want of it was the cause, and again the growing result, of moral decadence. And so the argument is summed up in the concluding verse, And we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?
And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?
So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.